Feeling stressed and overwhelmed

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed

I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling stressed and overwhelmed at the moment. I think all 4 of us in this house are, and I’m sure a lot of people are. Especially parents, and even more so parents of children with special needs. I said in my last post I was planning to take time out for the next couple of weeks, to spend plenty of time with the kids. Truth be told, it’s as much for my own benefit, as I was just feeling so overwhelmed with everything.

I think Lily is finding things most difficult in our house at the moment. She’s been off from school for so long now, it’s proving more and more difficult to keep her entertained. With no holiday, and no real days out, she’s become bored. She is also being very vocal about not wanting to go back to school, which is no surprise. I firmly believe she needs a SEN school, and we are going to have a battle on our hands to get her a place.

This time at home has really highlighted Lily’s autism, and where it has a negative affect. She’s been really confused by what’s going on, her anxiety levels have been more visible than ever before. She is having numerous meltdowns everyday, though I think we’ve often overlooked her meltdowns in the past. As they are not as violent, or dangerous as Jack. But a meltdown is a meltdown, and will be just as distressful for Lily.

What is sleep?

One major issue is getting Lily to sleep at night, which of course has a knock on affect on mine and Natalie’s sleep. If we can get her to sleep before 2am at the moment, it’s a miracle. She already takes medication to help her sleep, so it might be a case of the dose needing increasing. Which is what happened with Jack as he got bigger. The chance of getting an appointment with the paediatrician right now? Not bloody likely.

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed

I’m sure this is factoring into me feeling stressed and overwhelmed, but this is the life of the “autism parent”. Thankfully, apart from being argumentative and the odd meltdown. Jack has been pretty easy to deal with, as he’s been busy building stuff on minecraft.

Me time

Since lockdown started, way back when. I’ve basically no quality “me time” at all. Sure, I’ve grabbed a few minutes peace here and there, but those hours in the day when the kids are at school. Where you can just get stuff done, I’m sorely missing. I feel like I’m constantly trying to juggle doing 2 or 3 things at a time. As much as I’ll miss the kids being around, when they go back to school. I’ll be grateful not to have them under my feet all day long hah!

I had a lot of plans for house, garden and garage this year, and although some bits are getting done. It’s so difficult with 2 kids who need your constant attention. One major job I have managed to do, with the help of my parents. Is take out the bushes in our back garden, which was something we’ve been looking at for a couple of years. We get birds nesting in them, which is why we’ve kept them so long. But they grow like crazy, and every single one of them comes with massive thorns. Which I kept getting stuck in various body parts, never mind the kids.

So we decided to take them out, and put new stuff in, whilst also incorporating a fairy garden for Lily. Which should be fun. Here’s before and after photos to show you the difference, the garden feels like it’s twice the size it used to be. The bare patch in the middle had already been cut down, and was the highest part, before I thought about taking a photo. I’m still getting used to thinking about photo opportunities for the blog.

The blog

As I said, feeling stressed and overwhelmed has left me not feeling motivated to write what I would call “proper” blog posts the last few weeks. Coming on and having a bit of a rant like this, is pretty easy. Writing properly about a certain subject, takes time and a bit space to think. Which I’ve just not been getting. I have started one, I just need to finish it. Anyway, I have kept up with my daily pinning to Pinterest, so despite the lack of new posts. August is well on the way to being my best month for views, which is definitely helping keep the morale up!

This has gone on long enough, as always I appreciate everyone for taking the time to read, and I hope you’re all having a lovely summer.

Dad Does Autism

Managing  Depression

Managing Depression

Today I want to talk to you all about managing depression. For those of you that don’t already know, I am diagnosed with “long term” depression. Basically meaning it’s is something I have been battling with for probably about 18 years now. I have learnt ways to manage it better, but it is always there. It’s an illness that I don’t see ever going away, maybe I’m wrong and it will. But I don’t see hoping for it too suddenly go away as helpful, I have to deal with the here and now. So managing depression is what I have to do.

I said I’ve had depression for 18 years, I came to that conclusion with a counsellor. After finally going to see a doctor 4 years ago, as for the previous 14 years my depression was hidden from the world. I hid it well. Looking back, there were definitely signs that people could have seen. Some ways that I acted at times, but when people did ask if I was alright. I was quick to say of course and put on a happy face.

Tell people you are struggling

That’s the reason I’m writing this post. Like a lot of men out there, I just don’t like talking about how I’m feeling. I think we should all know by now, that’s not a good things. If you are struggling, be it depression, stress, anxiety or anything your worried about. Finding someone to talk to is the best thing you can do. It’s a hell of a lot easier telling other people to do that, than doing it yourself though.

This is where I take a deep breath, and tell you I am really struggling at the moment. I’ve not used this platform for this before, and I’m not even sure how I feel about it. Or even if I will end up posting it. I’ve just picked up my phone and started typing, to get out of my own head for a bit. This isn’t a planned post, and I have no idea where it is going…

What depression means to me today

To this day, I still don’t talk about my depression a lot, and I still mostly hide it away. There are a few reasons for this. Probably at least once every day, even during the good times, a suicidal thought will appear. I don’t want to be telling people everyday, what’s going on in my head. I’d worry them to death. But I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on things, I’ve learnt to recognise when there’s a real problem forming, and I have strategies in place for “surviving depression”.

I use words like survive and battle, because to me that is what it feels like. My depression doesn’t come from a specific event or some trauma, for whatever reason it is just part of who I am. People have asked me in the past what depression is like, and to be honest I’ve always given a vague answer. Saying things I’ve heard other people say, rather than what it’s like for me. Things like being in permanent low mood, which isn’t true for me. Even at my lowest points, if I forced myself to do something I liked, I could be happy for an hour or 2.

Natalie was the first one to realise that, me acting in a hyperactive silly manner. Was a sure sign I was struggling, and that was my attempt at managing depression. It usually lead to making everyone around me getting angry, and was massively self destructive. I’m working on not letting things get that far, before talking to people. Managing depression for me is a constant work in progress, there is no super cute. There is no, I do this and then everything is better. But I have things in place that I would like to share with you now, I’m no doctor or expert, but this is what helps me.

My 5 tips for managing depression

  1. If you haven’t already, go see your doctor
  2. Build a support Network
  3. Try to improve your lifestyle
  4. Learn to manage negative thoughts
  5. Create a wellness toolbox

Point one is the obvious starting point, you need to seek help and any possible medication or counselling you might need. I take anti depressants, and have been through counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) all of which helped me get to where I am today.

Building a support network is the big one, when it comes to managing depression. You can not do it all on your own. You need the help of supportive people, whether that be your spouse, parents or friends. Or a support group, or even people you’ve met on social media, whoever you feel comfortable confiding in. Having someone to talk to, is probably the biggest thing that will stop you doing something stupid. I have my people now, and it is the most important thing in my life.

Improving your lifestyle is an obvious, eat better, sleep betters exercise regularly, and it’s likely you will feel better. It’s easier said, than done of course, but keep trying.

Learn to manage negative thoughts

Managing depression

This is going to be my favourite bit! I often read things about “stopping” negative thoughts, and that can “eliminate” your depression. Maybe that works for some people, I don’t know. I wish I could just stop the thoughts in my head that tell me I’m worthless, that I’m failing, that I should just look myself. I really do. Whilst I can’t do that, I can manage them, and that’s what CBT taught me. Not magic ways to stop everything, but how to manage them. So I can function somewhat normally.

Knowing the signs that I’m starting to slip, and I need to talk to someone in that support network. Before it’s got to a point that it’s too late, and I’ve shut myself away. Being proactive, and making sure I make time for self care, and doing things I enjoy. For me personally the science behind depression I learnt through CBT, was a comfort. One of my major frustrations was I didn’t see a reason for being depressed. I couldn’t say this event happened, and that’s why I’m depressed. Learning that it is an illness, and all I can do is manage it helped me come to terms with depression and move forward.

Finally, create a wellness tool box. Which is basically just making a list of the things that make you happy, then having it on hand when you are feeling down. So you can quickly look at it, and choose something of off the list to do. In an attempt to make yourself feel better. This feels like it’s been a long post, so I’ll leave it there and talk more about the wellness tool box another time. It deserves its own post to be looked at in more detail.

I’d just like to say, that I am okay. I don’t know what this post is like, and I don’t much fancy reading it back. But I feel better for emptying my thoughts like this, if I do decide to post this, as always, thank you for reading.

Dad Does Autism

Family Check Up

Family Check Up

I’ve been busy with my editing the website, doing what I call “proper” blog posts about specific subjects. Plus trying to master Pinterest, so I thought it was about time I did a “family check up”. This blog started with me just talking about how we are all doing, and what we’ve been up to. I’ve learnt a lot about blogging, and writing blog posts since then.

However, I still do just want to do the posts where I’m talking about what’s been going on in our life’s. So let’s have this “family check up”.

Family check up

School

We will start with the major one. Jack is back at school full time. It feels really weird, and I don’t know if I am comfortable with it yet. He was really struggling and was desperate to go back, and we are fortunate that he goes to an autism specialist school. He is in a class of only 7 when it’s full, at the moment there are 3 of them attending. Due to this we decided to send him back, and he is much happier. It had to be full time or not at all, otherwise the confusion in routine would be too much for him.

This of course meant Lily wanted to go back to school, though not full time. At the moment she is going on just on a Monday, with the key workers group to do a outside classroom. She really enjoyed going on Monday. and was asleep by 5pm! It felt weird having a quiet house on Monday, in my head I was foo to get lots of stuff done. I ended up just enjoying the quiet time, and did nothing.

Times have been hard

It’s been a difficult few weeks, especially for Lily who is the one really struggling at the moment. We’ve got quite good at reading Jack, and knowing what’s wrong, and how to solve it. Lily is a complete mystery still, and one thing the lockdown has made really clear. Is just how much being autistic affects Lily.

There’s a lot of work coming up to get the understanding of how Lily works, so we can help her the best way we can. Natalie is back working too, so there’s going to be quite a bit of time where it’s just myself and Lily coming up. I’m hoping to be able to spend some time talking to Lily, and hopefully work put some ways to help her. Too give you an idea, whilst talking to her this week. She said things like “you know I don’t understand things” and “I sometimes wish I wasn’t hear”. Which is a frightening thing to hear from an 8 year old.

How am I doing?

Obviously I am stressing about Lily, but getting her to talk is actually a good thing. We now just need to work things out. Other than that I think I’m going a bit stir crazy, I really need to get out more. Even if it’s just for those walks I set in my July goals post, hopefully next Monday I will make more of the day without the kids.

I am pleased with how this blog is going though, which is keeping my spirits up, as well keeping me busy. Though i’m currently having trouble leaving comments on other people’s blog posts. I think Akismet has me marked down as spam, so I’ve emailed them to try and sort it out. It might seem a minor thing, but it has really stressed me out.

I think that will do for this family check up, hopefully in the next one I will be a bit more cheerful. Hope you’re are all doing well, and staying safe, take care.

Dad Does Autism

What’s it like being an autism Dad?

What’s it like being an autism Dad?

I mostly like to talk about Jack & Lily when it comes to autism, but today I’m going to talk about myself. I will be answering the question what’s it like being an autism Dad? It’s not a term I generally use for myself. Going around saying I’m an autism dad (or mum/mom) is not for me. But I wanted to open up a bit, and show you what it’s like to be a parent to two autistic children. I don’t want it to come across as having a moan about what’s difficult either. Sure I will have a look at the difficult things, but I have plenty of reason to be happy too.

Before I get started, these are my experiences with my autistic children. Every autistic person is different, the experiences we’ve had as a family wont be the same for everyone.

What’s it like being an autism dad?
photo of me worn out by the kids

Family and Sacrifices

First of all, we have been pretty lucky to have an understanding and supportive family around us. This is not always the case. I’ve heard some absolute horror stories, of people being completely abandoned by their family. Just because their child is autistic, and that doesn’t fit with how they want to be perceived.

This has not been the case for us, but there have still been challenges, and sacrifices made. We have missed lots of family outings. This is due to Jack’s anxiety, we are always invited, but whether Jack will go depends on the situation. Where is it? Who’s going? And how busy will it be? The last major one was my brothers wedding. We tried to prepare Jack for it, the day before the wedding he tried his suit on and said he was looking forward to it. Then on the day of the wedding, he just flat out refused to go.

Having to split the family

I ending up going with Lily, who gets a bit anxious in busy places, but settles if she’s with people she knows. Ideally I wanted Natalie and Jack to be there, I was disappointed they weren’t. But you can’t let these things get to you, it’s part of being an autism dad. We have to do what’s right for Jack. I rang later to see if he would come to the evening part, but he still said no.

Several birthdays and celebrations have been missed, or one of us have taken Lily. It’s nobodies fault, that’s just how it is. They’ve not all been missed, Jack has been out for family meals at restaurants etc.. Why can he do it sometimes, but not others? My best guess is it depends where his anxiety is? If he’s been having a difficult time at school etc, he will be less tolerant.

Jack & Lily
Jack & Lily our for a walk

Going out

Some families have real trouble ever doing anything, so again we don’t have it so bad. What you do need though is a thick skin, and if you’re like me and don’t have that, you need to develop it. Natalie has been around disability her whole life, so she was somewhat used to it. I wasn’t ready for it at all.

When we go out, even on Jack’s best days he will have some little moments. We will have people stare at us. It’s happened every time up until now, and it will happen every time in the future. If Jack has a full on meltdown, then we will have people gawking at us, and no doubt some will be judging.

To give you an idea of a meltdown in public. Imagine being stood outside the giraffe pen at the zoo, trying to calm down a 6ft tall 13 stone child. Who is just growling, whilst kicking, punching, head butting and scratching you. Whilst people stop to have a look, and then if Jack’s catches someone looking at him, he will go for them. So I have the added stress of stopping him hurting other people.

Learning and improving

After many years of learning we are more prepared for things like days out, which can mean preparing weeks in advance for a trip out. A spur of the moment day trip is not on the agenda. Jack needs to be prepared for it well in advance, whilst Lily tends to be okay, she too is more comfortable with this approach.

We get social stories and PECS ready so Jack is fully aware of what to expect. Then whilst we are out, we have to really watch Jack’s anxiety and sensory input. Where necessary we will apply deep pressure to keep him modulated. This might involve holding his hand, whilst we walk around and squeezing his hand repetitively. Or stopping to squeeze his arms and legs, jumping up and down together. Holding each other’s hands and pushing into each other, or waving your arms around like some sort of demented jellyfish. Sounds fun right?

Like I Said you need a thick skin, and it’s no good being shy, or worrying about what other people think. Days out are always stressful, but we do enjoy ourselves. I certainly have no intention of hiding away, especially when the kids want to go out and explore as much as they can.

Family
At a fireworks display

My own social life

Now I am going to talk about my own social life. To be honest I’ve barely had one, and that’s not completely down to the kids. I’ve had my own struggles with depression, and spent 10 years working full time. Then as soon as I’d come home Natalie would go to work, and I’d have the kids to look after. We basically had no money, so even if I felt like meeting up with friends, which wasn’t very often. I’d just wouldn’t be able too.

Due to circumstances, we’ve only ever really had my parents to call on as babysitters. Which we have done from time to time, and myself and Natalie have had opportunities to go out. I’ve never liked to ask too often though, as there have been stages where Jack has been a real handful. I’m in a better place now, and so is Jack so having a social life is a possibility, which again is more than some people have. Some have to do this all on their own.

Things to be proud of

Being an autism dad might mean you have to move the goalposts of what you hoped for your child, and that’s okay. Maybe you dreamed one day your son would play football for England, but it turns out them just being able to play with a group of other kids. Is something that can bring you just as much pride.

I have so many examples of these sort of things, that are simple everyday happenings for the average person. But mean the absolutely world to us. Things like Jack being able to walk into his school hall. Lily being able to walk into her classroom, with all her classmates. There are loads, but they can be for another post at another time.

Thank you for taking the time to read, and I just hope that it gives people a bit more awareness. Of what it’s like being an autism dad or mum, or autistic person.

Dad Does Autism

What does caregiver burnout look like?

What does caregiver burnout look like?

It’s a phrase that I hear quite a lot, and after a weekend where I really felt burnt out. I thought I’d look at the question, what does caregiver burnout look like? First of all, I’ve never viewed myself as a carer. I’m just a dad looking after his kids, the way any good dad would. It is safe to say I feel burnt out at times, but what do people mean when they say that? How do you know if you or someone you know is feeling this way?

Answering the question

If you google, what does caregiver burnout look like? The first answer you will see, looks like this.

What does caregiver burnout look like?

“A caregiver with burnout has become overwhelmed and is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted from the stress and burden (I don’t particularly like the word burden, but these aren’t my words) of caring for their loved one. They may feel alone, unsupported, or unappreciated. They often haven’t been taking good care of themselves and may be depressed.

I have made all the important words bold, these are the things you need to look out for. Whether it’s for yourself, because if you like me, you don’t notice the signs until they are on top of you. Until they have become a problem, and as with anything it is better to work on preventing it happening. Than to react one it has happened. Or if you know someone who is a caregiver, a family member or friend. Then look out for these signs for them. Most caregivers I’ve come across rarely ask for help, but I assure you they probably need it. Even if it’s just checking in on them for a chat, you can make a big difference to how they are feeling.

Not taking care of yourself and depression

I am diagnosed with depression, and my battles with the condition date back long before the kids arrived on the scene. There have been some difficult times, especially with Jack when his behaviour have been out of control. When we had massive problems at his old school, where quite frankly he was neglected, you can read about that in more detail by clicking here – “Our Special School Horror Story” so the situation has certainly made my depression more difficult to manage, and my self care can become non existent.

I try to remind myself that to be the best I can for my children, I need to look after myself first. It can be difficult though, there is a lot of stress involved. Different carers have different stress, for us at the moment a lot of the stress revolves around school, and not being completely sure what Jack and Lily’s capability’s will be as they grow up. It’s also about keeping anxiety and meltdowns in check, whilst for others the demands are more towards physical care. No matter what it is, the strain physically, emotionally and mentally takes it’s toll.

Feeling alone

The major thing that often affects cares, is the feeling of being alone, unsupported and unappreciated. This happens to varying degrees, in all different directions. I’ve heard stories of people having their families completely turn their back on them, or one of the parents walking out and leaving the other one to do it all alone. Thankfully this hasn’t happened to us. I don’t know that everyone in our families fully understands the situation we are in, it’s difficult too unless you’ve experienced it yourself. They have all stuck around and been supportive though.

We haven’t had any issues of people being openly “jealous”, and complain we get money just to stay at home. Which I know is something that happens a lot. As for unappreciated, the £67 a week carers allowance we get, doesn’t scratch the surface of what it would cost if the people we cared for we’re taken into care. Depending on the needs of person it can be thousands of pounds a day!

The current Covid-19 pandemic has shown just how unappreciated carers are. Suddenly all the services stop, leaving us to care 24/7, and we are pretty much the only group of people not being offered an extra help. Once again if you know a caregiver, show them a bit of appreciation, and support them if you can. It could be the little lift that keeps them going.

Feeling overwhelmed

What all the above boils down to, and what for me really answers the question, what does caregiver burnout look like? Is the feeling of being over whelmed. This past Saturday I felt completely overwhelmed, I’m not really sure where it came from, but it was a really difficult day. I struggled with everything, and to be honest I spent most of the day doing nothing but be grumpy and snappy with everyone.

Being cheered up by the kids

The only time I cheered up was when Lily got me playing what’s in the box? Thankfully I felt a bit more myself on Sunday, then Jack asked to go out for a walk and pay PokemonGo. Normally it would be a 20-30 minute walk around the block, but Jack was feeling especially adventurous. We went to a small nature reserve near us, and decided to venture as far as we could. Things got interesting when the path was cut of by a stream, which had some broken logs across it as a bridge. There was at least a 1 metre drop down to the other side.

Jack wouldn’t be deterred so we got across and kept going. Eventually the path became completely over grown and we had to turn back, much to Jack’s disappointment. It’s obviously not been used much. Getting back across the stream was a bit more interesting, but we just about managed it. We saw a frog hopping about, which Jack was fascinated with. On the way back, we saw some horses, which Jack also enjoyed.

We had a great time, and it’s the sort of thing I definitely want to do more of. I was tired when we got back, but after a 30 minute rest. I suddenly realised how much better I was feeling. And therein lies the conundrum, the people we care for may well cause us worry and stress. Plus a whole load of other emotions, but they can also be the ones that make us so happy.

Show support for carers

Right now people are showing great support to our NHS staff, carers and key workers. I just hope that when this pandemic is finally over, people don’t forget the importance of all these people. Obviously I’m looking at carers here, people who are often unappreciated and looked down on. Show these people the support they deserve.

Dad Does Autism

Autism and Minecraft

Autism and Minecraft

The first time I ever heard of Minecraft was when Jack asked to have the game. I had no idea of the strong links between autism and minecraft. A quick google of autism and Minecraft will bring up lots of results. It seems to be something that attracts some autistic people, and as is often the case. Once it becomes a special interest, it becomes an obsession.

Minecraft is even being used in therapies, to help autistic children learn things like social skills. You can apply for a specialised server for autistic people, called AutCraft, which is said to be a safe haven for autistic children to play Minecraft. Jack just plays on Minecraft normally, and it’s for fun.

The joy of building something

When you successfully build something, it gives you such a great feeling. No matter what it is, big or small, you still get that feeling of achievement. I talked about how Lego provides that for Jack in “Is Lego good for autistic children”, click the link if you haven’t read that post before.

Of course with Lego you are restricted to what you can make. In the computerised world of Minecraft the possibilities are practically endless. You can go wherever your imagination takes you. 

Using Minecraft to express feelings

The other day Jack was very excited to show me a laboratory he made. He then told me he had the coronavirus inside it and was working on a cure.

on top of the coronavirus lab

I actually felt quite emotional and proud that he was thinking of doing that. He has found it difficult to understand, what is going on in the world right now. Trying to express his own feelings on the matter, hasn’t been easy either.  We have spent a lot of time of time, trying to learnt what Jack is trying to say to us, when he is unable to do it directly.

This was Jacks way of showing us he is worried about the coronavirus, and wants there to be a cure found. So that everything can go back to normal. When he does something like this, it gives us the opportunity to ask questions about a subject he doesn’t like to talk about. 

He won’t communicate about a subject he is anxious about, and if you try and force the issue he’s even less likely to talk. This was showing us he was ready to talk about the coronavirus. Only a few questions, with short answers and nods of the head. But enough for us to get an understand of how anxious and worried he is feeling, and now he knows we know.

Jack’s favourite builds

That was an example of how autism and Minecraft work, to help an autistic child communicate with his parents. Let’s finish with something more fun. I’ve asked Jack to share with you, the favourite things he has built on Minecraft.

Some of the favourite things he has built include, Freddy Fazbears Pizzeria, a nether portal, and the Kanto region in Pokemon.

His absolute favourite is the SCP 250 foundation facility. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, I don’t really either. Here is a brief explanation of what SCP is.


You can click here if you want to find out more about it. There’s a couple of pictures below to showing the facility that Jack has made.

Minecraft & autism
Full facility

an SCP in its containment pod

There have been a lot of posts involving Lily recently, so it was fun for me to get Jack involved again. For those of you out there who’s kids like playing on Minecraft, or even you yourself. What do you enjoy building on there. We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.

Dad Does Autism

I’m feeling so tired

I’m feeling so tired

For the last 2 or 3 days I’ve been feeling so tired. Perhaps it’s a turn in the weather, we’ve had lots of lovely sunny spring days during this lockdown. This week however it’s been more like the British dull, grey and drizzly weather, us Brits know only too well.

Perhaps it’s the lack of Vitamin D, and not getting outside as much. Leading to an even greater feeling of isolation than previously, but I’ve been feeling so tired this week, and really struggled for motivation.

Annoyingly 3/4s of this post appears to have vanished, and I’ve not got it saved anywhere else 🤦‍♂️

Feeling so tired

There was at least another 7 paragraphs, talked about the difficulty and demands on parenting autistic children. I don’t think I can remember well enough to write it all out again, even if I wanted to. To be honest I don’t want to, the tiredness probably had something to do with me messing the post, and i’m feeling a bit dejected about it.

I’ll quickly say the two main points, that are proving difficult, and taking my energy. Jack’s routine. Dinner has to be at 12, and Tea has to be at 5. If it’s not he gets annoyed, sometimes angry. With Lily it is the demand for attention. All the jobs I would normally do when the kids are at school, I’m finding difficult to do, as Lily always wants you with her. I will just have to keep plugging away and do what I can.

I also went on to talk about playing in the rain, but I will now do that in a separate post tomorrow. As I have plans with Lily to get the waterproofs on and go for a long walk in the rain tomorrow. Assuming that it does actually rain that is.

Dad Does Autism

Self Isolation Questionnaire

Self Isolation Questionnaire


Today’s post is a sort of Self Isolation questionnaire. I was never much into blogs before I started writing my own, but now I read a lot of them. There are lots of good stories and ideas out there. One thing that really interested me, was a blog post titled 40 self isolation journal prompts at the blog Our favourite jar. Ive narrowed it down to 25 question, which I will be providing answers too. To see the full list 40 head over https://ourfavouritejar.com/, that’s where the inspiration for this post came from, there’s lots of other great posts to read as well.

I’ve never kept a journal or diary, but in a way this is my diary. Not every post is about me, what I’ve been doing, or how I’m feeling. But this is the only place I keep record of those things. That’s why I’ve decided to answer the questions here. Feel free to use the questions yourself, i think it’s a worthwhile exercise, which is why I’m doing it. So, on with the questions

Self Isolation Questionnaire


1. How long have you been self isolating now?

We started when Boris Johnson made the announcement. A quick google tells me that was March 23rd, which makes it 37 days as It writing this.

2. Who are you isolating with?

My partner Natalie and our 2 kids Jack and Lily.

3. Are you still working?

No. I actually left work in March, it wasn’t related to Covid-19.

4. How are you feeling today?

I’m feeling pretty good. I did quite a bit of cleaning today, and rewarded myself with a couple of games on Madden 20 on the PS4. It’s the first miserable rainy day I can really recall since this started, so I’ve left the kids playing on their games while I got on with the cleaning.

5. Who do you miss?

Our Sunday routine for as long as I can remember, has been I take Jack & Lily to my parents while Natalie goes to work. We are video calling my parents to keep in touch, but all 3 of us are missing the visits. Especially getting to play with their dog Mack.

6. What keeps you going?

When things start to get on top of me, I try and get a bit of space and listen to some music. Music has always been a very important means of escape for me.

7. What events are you missing out on? How do you feel about it?

Currently we haven’t missed out on anything that was planned. We do have a holiday booked in August, in Devon. We’ve only paid a deposit so far, and they’ve informed us we would get a refund if they are closed due to lockdown, or we could choose to move the holiday to next year. We are keeping the options open for now.

8. How did you exercise today?

Vigorous cleaning was the sum total of my exercise today. Normally it’s been playing sports games in the garden with Lily, and some days going for a walk.

9. Have you had to go shopping?

Natalie has done the main shopping, as she normally does, and she is doing it for her parents as well, who are both in the high risk group. I’ve been to the local shop a couple of times when we’ve ran out of milk.

10. How are you keeping in touch with people?

As I’ve mentioned, video calls to my parents, then I’m on a WhatsApp group with my closest friends. Then using social media to communicate with everyone else.

11. What is on your to-do list today?

I don’t have one.

12. How are you coping emotionally?

I’ve been up and down, but mostly up. I have long term depression, so I was worried how I’d handle this situation. Overall I’m doing ok.

13. How is home schooling going?

Hit and miss. Lily quite likes doing the school work…when she’s in the mood for it. Jack not so much.

14. What would you do right now, if you could do anything?

I would go for a nice walk in the Peak District with the family, followed by a pub lunch.

15. The first thing you will do when we are released?

Not much. I don’t think I will be rushing straight out to be honest.

16. Has this time made you change your mindset?

Not really, it has more reinforced my mindset. The need to slow down and focus on family, which is what led me to leave work. I would have been classed as a key worker, if I’d still been at work, and would have been expected to continue working. I have huge respect and admiration for all the key workers out there, but I’m glad to be at home putting all my efforts into my family at this time.

17. How do you deal with difficult days?

If it’s the kids having a difficult day, just put the extra effort in to make them entertained and happy. Get some games on the go, try and get everyone doing something together.

18. Do you avoid the news?

Yes! Like the plague, and that’s 365 days a year. I figure if anything important is announced, I will hear about it.

19. One thing that made you smile today?

Reading a new book with Lily, it was called the Zoo bet.

20. How are the children dealing with it?

They have been up and down. It’s not been as bad as I might have feared. Jack has delayed processing, so issues might arise later on, but up to now he’s coped fairly well considering his routines disappeared overnight. Lily has started to get bored revelry, and is missing her friends from school a lot.

21. What have you done that you wouldn’t normally have time for?

Stuff with the kids. They are quite demanding, so other jobs I’d like to get on with, aren’t always easy to get too. I have managed some time for it, but of my time is spent entertaining the kids.

22. Have you kept a list of things to do once this is over?

No, it’s perhaps something to do though. I think we will all need some things to look forward too.

23. Do you feel closer to people even with the distance?

Strangely, yes. I guess as most of us don’t have much to do, we are all talking to each other more than normal. Whether that’s phone/video calls or messages.

24. Have your political views altered in any way?

No.

25. What has been your self isolation highlight?

Our kitchen sink got blocked. I’m not known as a DIY handy man, but I managed to take the pipes apart, clear the blockage and put it all back together again. It was a proud moment for me.

That’s it for the self isolation questionnaire. I hope you enjoyed my answers and why not have a go at it yourself?

Dad Does Autism

The positive things

The positive things

I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s really important to look at the positive things at the moment. I have been up and down myself, which is why I decided to write this post. So I can myself focus in on some of the positive things that are happening at the moment.

The first and most obvious thing is, having lots of time to spend with the kids. Now of course it’s not all roses and sunshine, but for the most part I’ve enjoyed it. Watching Lily do her art, baking cakes and playing some board games has been nice. Lily’s latest creation is this lovely blue and green penguin, made from a plastic bottle cut in half. Then wrapped in newspaper and painted. Then stuck on some googly eyes and cardboard wings.

Penguin

Getting outside

Before I hurt my foot we were playing lots of sport in the garden, I think I’m just about fully recovered now, so we can start doing that again. Getting Jack outside in the garden is still hit and miss, but he’s getting out enough that’s it’s not a major problem. Jack and dad time has largely been about watching movies and snacks, with a bit of Lego building thrown in. We have been on a few short walks. Jack doesn’t want to go everyday, but again he’s going enough for it not to be a major concern.

I’ve also had a couple of walks, where it’s just me and Lily. Both kids like to have their own time with us. We live in a small village, so we are surrounded by fields and a lot of animals. There seems to be a lot of horses round us, which Lily loves. So we walked up to take a look at some of them, which was really nice and Lily loves it.

Lily and horses

I’m not a hardcore environmentalist or anything, but I also think it’s quite nice that everything has slowed down. I’m sure Mother Nature is taking some deep breathes of cleaner air at the moment. Obviously things can’t stay like this, but I do think there is a lesson to be learned regarding slowing down, and what people’s priorities are.

Friendships

It’s been a very interesting time for friendships. I’ve had a lot of friends and acquaintances over the years, from school, college, football teams and work. There is only a very small group of friends I stay in contact with regularly. At the start of the lockdown we were talking a lot, as we all processed what was going on. It’s slowed down a bit now, as o think everyone has settled into a bit of a routine with what’s going on. But it was good to have friends there, helping to keep each other going.

Jack and Lily are both missing their friends from school. It used to be said autistic people cant make friends, which is absolute rubbish. Both Jack and Lily crave friendship. None of Jack’s friends from school live anywhere near us. But Lily has seen a couple of her friends around and has been able to say hello. We live close to the local shop, so when we are in the front garden we see lots of people.

Lily saw her best friend/boyfriend, and his mum took this lovely photo of them waving to each other over the garden fence. You could see how much they wanted to be able to play, hopefully they will be able to soon. It is lovely to see how strong the friendship is.

Waving the positive things
waving, with Jack sneaking in the photo in the background

They are a few of the positive things I could think of. Have you had any positive experiences come from this pandemic? We’d love to hear about them, so feel free to let us know in the comments.

Dad Does Autism

Getting creative

Getting creative

If this isn’t your first time reading one of my posts, you’ll probably know that Lily loves her art. She enjoys getting creative, and she’s been doing a lot of art whilst being off school. You can’t just keep drawing pictures though, so we’ve been looking at different things to do.

One thing she has enjoyed doing, is blow painting with straws. She did a really nice one of a dolphin that cut out of card, and put in a sea background. It was so nice it deserved to go in a frame. Though we haven’t yet settled on a place for it to go in the house.

Dolphin painting

That one was very precise, with a picture in mind. She then did another one, which is a more traditional blow painting, which I also really like, again there is an animal cut out of cardboard in the corner. I think it’s supposed to be a dog, Lily doesn’t seem too sure herself. Oh well it adds to the intrigue.

Blow painting


Finally we come to my favourite piece, and something completely different.

Branch art

A small branch decorated with leaves that have been cut out of paper and coloured in, then attached using string. Then we’ve used the string to hang it in pride of place on the upstairs landing.

Lily really enjoyed doing these, and we are looking at other things to do. The next idea we have is some paper roll animals which should be fun. I am always a big supporter of getting creative, and not just for children, adults too. I find it an extremely important part of maintaining my mental health.

As always Lily would like to know which one people like the most, so if you can comment your favourite below it would be really appreciated.

Dad Does Autism